A Modest Experiment in Methane Gas Production

For all the folks who want to find out firsthand if decaying garbage will actually and truly and honestly and really produce burnable methane, here is a modest experiment in methane gas production.

| March/April 1973

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    The parts of a digester and collector in a very simple methane gas production system.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
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    Your experimental system might look like this once it's assembled.
    ILLUSTRATION: SANDY FEARON

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Ain't no doubt about it. . . if MOTHER EARTH NEWS' mail is any indication, an awful lot of folks want to know how to recycle home and farm wastes into high-quality fertilizer and methane gas for fuel. The only trouble is that—at this point—very few people in the United States and Canada know exactly how to go about the undertaking.

How big should a digester-generator be? What materials are best for its construction? Is the "batch" or "continuous feed" loading cycle most efficient? Can human waste be processed in a digester? Should the unit be above or below ground? Will the processor produce an odor problem? Can a house really be heated with the gas that is taken from decayed organic matter? Will the fuel power an internal combustion engine? Would it work better driving a steam powerplant? The questions pouring into our mailbox are endless.

Well, if you're a regular MOTHER reader, you know that—in an effort to pin down firm answers to such queries—we asked Ram Bux Singh (the world authority on farm and village-size methane generators) to help us build a prototype digester for MOTHER EARTH NEWS last summer. Singh's design—constructed almost entirely of recycled and scrap materials—was a marvel of low-cost, do-it-yourself engineering . . . and we had hoped to be able to pass some operational facts and figures along to you by now.

The only trouble is that the "expert" welder (no, we still won't tell you his name) who spent so much time telling us what a great job he was doing on the digester's water jacket . . . didn't do a great job at all. Matter of fact, it was an unbelievably lousy job and the whole generator is still—at this point—worthless for experimental purposes.



Come the first warm day in spring, though, we're gonna roll it out and fabricate a new water jacket for the critter . . . and, by fall, we should know a lot more than we do now about designing and building and operating a do-it-yourself methane gas station.

In the meantime, for all the folks who want to find out firsthand if decaying garbage will actually and truly and honestly and really produce burnable methane . . . here is Robert C. McMahon's modest experiment in methane gas production.

Brian Duvall
2/1/2009 5:03:29 PM

My 16 year old son Scott did his high school science project on maximizing methane production as a renewable energy source. You can see his actual experiment on www.youtube.com keyword "maximizing methane". It took second place in his category. Check it out. Gives me hope that our kids will figure out how to save the world one day.


James_1
7/3/2008 4:13:33 AM

We are alternative Power specialists, based in South Africa, and we are very eager to introduce alternative renewable energy options to the SA market. Are you able to introduce us to respectible importers/manufacturers of methane gas,solar,wind power generation products?


joe_33
1/10/2008 5:16:12 PM

I FOUND THIS AFTER SEARCHING FOR PRESSURE COOKER LIDS FOR METHANE PRODUCTION. I WILL CUT THE BOTTOM OUT OF A PRESSURE COOKER AND BOLT IT TO A 55 GALLON PLASTIC DRUM.




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